'Nutcracker' goes HD, under the baton of Clotilde Otranto

PAUL KOLNIK 
 New York City Ballet dances the snowflake scene from 'George Balanchine's 'The Nutcracker. It will be broadcast in high definition at area cinemas Dec. 13 and on Dec. 14 on  the PBS Encore Channel.

©Paul Kolnik

PAUL KOLNIK New York City Ballet dances the snowflake scene from "George Balanchine's 'The Nutcracker. It will be broadcast in high definition at area cinemas Dec. 13 and on Dec. 14 on the PBS Encore Channel.

Clotilde Otranto, of Naples and New York, will conduct 'George Balanchine's 'The Nutcracker'' for its HD broadcast.

Clotilde Otranto, of Naples and New York, will conduct "George Balanchine's 'The Nutcracker'" for its HD broadcast.

Grab a sugar plum

What: New York City Ballet dances "George Balanchine's 'The Nutcracker'" in HD

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13

Where: Hollywood 20, 6006 Hollywood Drive, Naples (239-597-9494); Coconut Point 16, 8021 Cinema Way, Estero (239-498-8706); Bell Tower Cinemas, 13499 Belltower Drive, Fort Myers (239-437-2020)

Admission: $20 adults, $16 students; $18 seniors at Coconut Point only

Tickets: bit.ly/uCDFQR or at the box offices

On Dec. 13, audiences in 500 theaters can see a larger-than life New York City Ballet, the country's top dance company, perform "George Balanchine's 'The Nutcracker.'" And, for a glimpse or two, they will also see the woman from Naples whose baton sets its pace.

Clotilde Otranto, a former associate conductor for the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra and a one-time ballet dancer herself, will conduct the ballet's orchestra for the high-definition broadcast. It's being shown here at the Hollywood 20, the Coconut Point and the Bell Tower cinemas in Naples, Estero and Fort Myers respectively at 6 p.m. that day.

The next evening, "Live from Lincoln Center" will broadcast another performance of it with Otranto and the same cast on the WGCU Encore channel, available at 30.3 on HD-equipped televisions or in a premium Comcast cable TV package.

Having the same cast may almost be incidental, since there are six different casts and even more conductors with the company.

"We do The Nutcracker' probably 13-14 times — I do — every year. We (the New York City Ballet) do maybe 40 performances, with different casts, and that's the fun part. I never have the same cast twice," explained Otranto. She divides her time between Naples and New York, where she's one of the staff conductors of the New York City Ballet.

Already she's a nearly a week into study for a Tchaikovsky work that she's conducted for probably a dozen years herself. She even conducts some of the rehearsals, which are done with the company and a pianist.

A camera crew and sound specialists enter that mix shortly. The production company that beams the programming will sit through them, and try out vantage points for cameras and microphones.

"Actually, there's already one that's going to be right up beside me for the first act, when the concertmaster has a violin solo, so it can focus on him," she explained. Otranto will even take a turn "in the truck," sitting with the production staff as they go through a rehearsal.

"These guys have done this a million times before," she said. "They've done the opera, the orchestra — everything there — for television. I'm there to listen to the sound. In the truck, you sit there, and they tell you, 'If we need to bring up the woodwinds or something here, let us know.'"

The New York City Ballet isn't the only organization in training for these spectacles. Otranto has to be ready for several hours of full body conducting.

"I am in very good shape," she declared."I hate to be an advertisement for them, but I buy those videos, the DVDs so I have many different ones. I do one that's cardio, one that's kickboxing, every mornning at 6 a.m. And then I swim."

"I train like an athlete. I train with one hour of exercise and a half-hour of swimming. So it's enough," she mused.

"And the music moves you, too. The dancers are also inspiring."

Otranto, at age 15, danced a version of this ballet and it has particular special moments for her.

"I like the war scene, where the mice are fighting. I love that. Then there's the bed scene where the entire bed turns around. Then — the snow scene, she said, singling out the iconic tableau of snowflake dancers twirling under a staged blizzard.

But wait — there's more. "Since I was a little girl I am in love with the pas de deux in the second act."

Otranto, who has conducted the ballet on tours in Paris and London, is set to go to Baden-Baden, Germany with them next spring.

"It's a blessing," she said of the upcoming production. "It's Tchaikovsky. It's Balanchine. It's (Artistic Director) Peter Martins' dancers. What can be better than that?"

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